John McLaughlin's musical moments range from overwhelmingly good to unbearably bad. On the new live CD of his band The 4th Dimension, the level is going all the way to the top.
The Mute Gods have already released their third album. Nick Beggs, Roger King and Marco Minnemann are also involved in other time-consuming projects that leave them little time to breathe. The bass and embroidery virtuoso Beggs leads the trio and determines its musical and content orientation. The third album "Atheists And Believers" shows that the former pop star is driven by a political conscience and is anything but mute.
For the fact that Nick Beggs always dresses up so extravagant, at times screamingly funny, he gives himself a surprisingly serious interview and weighs up his statements carefully. It is also unusual for the 57-year-old Englishman to call a quarter of an hour before the agreed appointment just to make sure that the line is open. After the external circumstances have been clarified, a pleasant and fruitful conversation about present and past develops.
eclipsed: You started your career in the early eighties as bassist of the pop band Kajagoogoo, today you are one of the most renowned instrumentalists in prog. How did this transformation come about?
Nick Beggs: If you're in the music business and successful, there are only two options: Either you commit yourself to what you do and try to keep doing it, or you try to change things. Towards the end of the eighties a process began with me. I went into myself and realized that I had to try other things. I then reinvented myself as a session musician, first with pop-oriented projects, then increasingly with more sophisticated music, until at some point I ended up with Steve Hackett. Something like that doesn't happen overnight, you're not a pop star today and you're on stage tomorrow with Hackett. It's been a long process.
eclipsed: Have you ever heard of Kajagoogoo Prog?
Beggs: I grew up in a very musical household, my father was a semi-professional musician who played saxophone in a band. One day he put a drum kit in my room and just disappeared for a very long time. When he showed up again, I could play it. I absorbed music like a sponge. I was into jazz, pop, rock, my parents heard Johnny Cash. One day a friend of mine brought a record with him, it was "Close To The Edge" by Yes. I was thrilled and asked him: What kind of music is this? He said, "It's called progressive rock. That was already a drastic experience.
eclipsed: After years with Steve Hackett and Steven Wilson, you launched your own project in 2014. Did working with them lead you in some way to The Mute Gods?
Beggs: I really appreciate their music, but when I write songs I try to get away from it. I don't want to do another Firth Of Fifth. So it's less a musical influence than the awareness of who I am as a musician that they have awakened in me. The Mute Gods is my project. It's actually soloing, but if your name is Nick Beggs, you're not releasing an album under that name. You need a band name that sounds good. And if you used to be a famous pop star, you don't stand up and suddenly record records that nobody will hear anyway. What I want to say is: Through my work with Hackett and Wilson, I have made a name for myself in the prog over the years. People see what I can do and what I do, and that's exactly why I got the label's offer to do something of my own.